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The Novice Race

Pleasant sunny day. Northerly winds of 12 - 14 knots but heavy gusts up to 23 knots. Arrived in morning to practice and then take part in the Novice Race in the afternoon. The reservoir is at a low level at present and launching has to be gradual due to the very shallow waters (ie rudder and centreboard cannot be fully deployed until many yards off shore).

When ashore the Wind did not appear strong but out on the water it became fierce. On occasions strong gusts would appear from the north and then very suddenly change direction and blow from the south west. The gusts and large changes of direction flattened a number of dinghies during the morning.
Our skills at handling the Xenon in strong winds are now quite respectable and we decided to keep with the full rig. We had a number of near misses in terms of a capsize but did manage to maintain control throughout, although the Xenon was often full of water. Playing the mainsheet and hiking in the very fitful wind was exhausting. Our arms were aching after only an hour on the water. We took the view that launching the gennaker in such unpredictable weather was asking for trouble so we kept it dry.

The race course layout was totally unexpected and very well chosen. The start was from the far side of the reservoir, presumably intended to give a short upwind stretch before a long reach and further upwind section. Only one section was a broad reach and even that had significant variable cross winds that made use of the gennaker risky.

There were two races in quick succession.  Following our very enjoyable RYA Start Racing course we put our new found knowledge to good use and got off to a good start in both races - not perfect and plenty of room for improvement but without doubt our best to date.  Although labelled a Novice race it was clear that a number of the competitors were highly competent. The wind varied greatly in strength knocking down a couple of boats but the wind direction also changed signiificantly on occasion making tacking a sometimes exciting exercise.  A number of competitors were obviously alert to the advantages/ problems of these changes and tacked immediately the wind changed. In the first race we made one poor tacking judgement and lost 3 positions but in the 2nd race we made some good/lucky judgements and gained 4 places.

The Xenon is not a great performer in light winds and on one broad reach stretch we were almost becalmed for 10 minutes but by shifting all our weight forward, crew knelt as far forward as poss while helm leaned across the thwart. Surprise surprise the Xenon began to creep up on the dinghies in front so much so that as the wind returned in strength we were on the point of overtaking them. Nothing like putting a bit of theory into practise at the right time!

Our success earned us a little prize with which we we more than pleased. Success at last.
Also interesting to note the attention the Xenon received as we were derigging.

Bewl Valley Sailing Club organise  Novice races on the two main Bank Holidays in the year. These races are very informal affairs designed to encourage those who would never dream of racing into having a go. The rules are so relaxed as to be almost non-existent and this of course adds to the great pleasure of all involved. A large range of boats take part and the PY Nos are used to level out the performance differences. Dads often take their children and there are races for both adults and children. Children !! some of them are demon sailors who would give champions a run for their money!  Many thanks to the usual kind souls at Bewl who give their time to organise these races with such excellent humour.

PS. We are now discussing whether we should try our luck on the regular weekend racing at Bewl.